Self Control

As part of my efforts to improve my eating I have been doing some thinking and internet research.

To start with I wanted to go back to basics and question what was involved in trying to eat healthy, and more importantly to get over the end of the day relapses. Do I need to reward myself more? Relax more? Believe more? Monitor more? Plan more?

I found this great reference here on self control and I want to try out some of the suggestions to see if they help:

Focus on One Goal at a Time.

  • Begin small. begin with small acts of restraint. Confidence in self-control abilities is likely to increase
  • Believe in yourself. [develop the] belief that self-control is flexible and replenishing, which in turn, will further improve motivation and performance.
  • Develop Good Habits. As habit eventually becomes routine, [you] will no longer need to draw on self-control to perform it.

Find True Motivation

  • Motivation comes from within…., the motivation to exert self-controlled behaviours must truly come from within the individual. 
  • Make up your own plan. A sense of autonomy is also vital – [decide yourself] how you intend to exert self-control to achieve these goals. 

 

Set a Standard and Monitor Your Progress

  • Set Goals, it is important to set a concrete standard that may be constantly observed. This ensures that progress is being made towards one’s overarching goals. 
  • Keep it Simple. Developing a few easy-to-follow rules will also decrease complexity and thus decrease depletion (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). 
  • Keep track…improvements in one’s ability to monitor performance may eventually generate a monitoring mind-set and increase long-term capacity for self-control (Wan & Sternthal, 2008).

Reward Yourself

  • Periods of rest and small rewards have been shown to have a restorative effect on depletion. 
  • a productive restorative activity may be to engage in relaxation techniques or meditation in which you “switch off” and relinquish control over thoughts and attention. 
  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be particularly useful in combating ego-depletion (Friese, Messner & Schaffner, 2012), and involves the process of observing thoughts, emotions, and sensations as they come and go, with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. 
  • Providing one’s self with motivators may enhance the salience of target goals.

Too easy!

Below I’ve included some other theories and research outcomes which support this list of suggestions.

Self-control – the capacity to alter one’s own behaviour in order to pursue personal long-term goals, and adhere to standards such as values and social expectations (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000).

Self-control is central to numerous mental and physical abilities, including the delay of gratification, focusing and sustaining attention, regulating emotions, thought suppression, resisting temptations, and overriding automatic, habitual, or impulsive behaviours.

The problems with self control include:

  • In the same way that a muscle becomes weakened after repeated exercises, one’s capacity for further self-control can…become depleted
  • ..personal theories about self-control can moderate the ego-depletion effect..….evidence indicating that the beliefs, expectations and motivation one has in regards to particular self-control behaviours can influence performance. 
  • ..individuals are often not unable to exert self-control, but instead are unwilling or unmotivated, as to do so is unpleasant or requires too much effort or resources.

Self control can be increased by:

  • Increasing internal or external motivation has been shown to encourage an individual to overcome ego-depletion and “tap into” their remaining resources..
  • Researchers Muraven and Baumeister (2000) argue that ego-depletion is partially determined by whether efforts are externally or internally driven. Indeed, it makes intuitive sense that one is more likely to continue exerting self-control if they are doing so for autonomous reasons.
  • Williams and colleagues (1996) found that individuals who diet within an autonomous setting lose more weight and report less feelings of depletion than those within more controlling settings. 
  • Research indicates that identified motivation is a better predictor of engagement for certain tasks that may be less interesting but still important (Koestner and Losier, 2002), such as monitoring alcohol intake. When one is driven by identification motivation, they consciously recognise a behavioural goal as valuable and personally important.

I think this equation is interesting too: